Traditional critical illness insurance used to cover 30 medical conditions. Now there are 37 of them and more than half have new standardized definitions.

critical illness

Since 2003, Life Insurance Association of Singapore (LIA) has standardized critical illness definitions to provide greater transparency for customers to compare the different critical illness insurance plans. 11 years later, with all the medical advancement, it is time for the definitions of critical illness to be updated.

#1  What are the common critical illnesses in Singapore?

According to research findings from Gen Re’s “2012 Dread Disease Survey”, over 90 per cent of all severe stage claims received by life insurers are for five critical illnesses (CI) namely:

  • Major Cancers
  • Heart Attack of Specified Severity
  • Coronary Artery By-pass Surgery
  • Stroke
  • Kidney Failure

Today, Singapore has a “graying” population with 300,000 people aged 65 or above, and that will triple by 2030. The incidence of chronic diseases among both the young and old is also increasing. Healthcare bills here has been rising, this will escalate the nation’s overall healthcare expenditure by an additional 11% each year until 2018, according to an article in The Business Times on 8 February 2013.

#2 Critical Illness Definition Standardization

Critical illness insurance pays out a lump sum in the event that the life insured is diagnosed to be suffering from one of the critical illnesses (CI) or has undergone a surgical procedure covered by the policy.

Each CI condition or surgery covered by the policy is precisely defined in the policy contract and benefits will be paid only if the policyholder suffers from a condition that meets the standard definition. So you can imagine it would be quite chaotic if one insurer pays a claim while another rejects the same condition due to differences in definition.

In 2003, the insurance industry standardized definitions of 30 critical illnesses. It was a good move because Policyholders were given greater assurance in claims.

Fast forward 11 years now, with advances in clinical practices, medical science and technology, a lot of things have changed. I am glad that LIA has taken the initiative to update the critical illness definitions.

#3 New Critical Illness Benefit Guidelines

With effect from 1 August 2014, there are three changes.

a) The previous maximum limit of 30 medical conditions per CI plan is abolished. An insurer will now have the flexibility to choose to cover any amount of medical conditions per CI plan from the list of 37 medical conditions.

b) Definitions of the medical conditions are standardized across the industry to make them consistent. Out of the 37 medical conditions in the LIA list, 16 are revised.

c) Insurers MUST adopt a 90-day waiting period for the severe stage of the following 5 CIs:

  1. Major Cancers
  2. Coronary Artery By-Pass Surgery
  3. Heart Attack of Specified Severity
  4. Angioplasty and Other Invasive Treatments for Coronary Artery
  5. Other Serious Coronary Artery Disease

Here is the list of the new 37 medical conditions

  1. Major Cancers
  2. Heart Attack of Specified Severity
  3. Stroke
  4. Coronary Artery By-pass Surgery
  5. Kidney Failure
  6. Aplastic Anaemia
  7. End Stage Lung Disease
  8. End Stage Liver Failure
  9. Coma
  10. Deafness (Loss of Hearing)
  11. Heart Valve Surgery
  12. Loss of Speech
  13. Major Burns
  14. Major Organ / Bone Marrow Transplantation
  15. Multiple Sclerosis
  16. Muscular Dystrophy
  17. Parkinson’s Disease
  18. Surgery to Aorta
  19. Alzheimer’s Disease / Severe Dementia
  20. Fulminant Hepatitis
  21. Motor Neurone Disease
  22. Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
  23. HIV Due to Blood Transfusion and Occupationally Acquired HIV
  24. Benign Brain Tumour
  25. Viral Encephalitis
  26. Bacterial Meningitis
  27. Angioplasty & Other Invasive Treatment For Coronary Artery
  28. Blindness (Loss of Sight)
  29. Major Head Trauma
  30. Paralysis (Loss of Use of Limbs)
  31. Terminal Illness
  32. Progressive Scleroderma
  33. Apallic Syndrome
  34. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus with Lupus Nephritis
  35. Other Serious Coronary Artery Disease
  36. Poliomyelitis
  37. Loss of Independent Existence

If you are considering to buy critical illness insurance, I have made it easy for you.

Click here to download the new critical illness definition

If you want to check out the indicative premium, you can use the FREE compareFIRST service here.

About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

  • Hi,

    I’m interested to know what this means for an old life insurance plan (bought in 1998) Does that mean the list is outdated and thus I’m not getting the coverage I would if I got a new one to cover the list of 37? Or does the updated list by LIA automatically apply to me too?


    • Hi, Ashley

      The new definition (37 critical illnesses) will only be applicable to the new policy, it will not apply to your old policy as insurance is a contract which is defined at the time of buying and cannot be changed.

  • Hi I am checking should I cancel my 36 illness from Great Eastern is not cheap and I have MediShield from ntuc

    • Hi, Julie

      I suggest you do a proper insurance planning first before restructuring your policy. I assume you have an integrated shield plan from NTUC but that cannot replace critical illness cover. Critical illness is mainly to cover loss of income while shield plan is to cover the medical bills.

  • Thank you. This is useful info that the financial advisors rarely explained to consumers. So, is there also a definition for Early Illness and a required waiting period before one can make a claim?

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